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Whoops they did it again…

99.9% surety is that the person beneath the headstone pictured to the right, the Order for which is pictured above, is not the person named because he lived until 1914 and died in California.  Notice the 2nd column from the right where typing spells “U.S. Colored Regiment Infantry.”  Neither Milo Palmer nor Jesse Palmer was Colored.  But they were, as always, White Officers in a Colored Regimen.  The Headstone also identifies the buried as a member of CO. C 65 U.S. CLD. INF Curiously Milo Palmer is listed in Civil War records as having been in three different Cavalries and one Infantry.

By TIMOTHY McCALL, Guest Author

Whoops they did it again…Over the years, many attempts have been made to identify and place markers on the graves of the veterans buried in Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery, especially in the 1930s and 1940s. In general, this wasn’t a difficult task, due to the fact that the original owners, the Layman family, kept extraordinarily good records. In some instances, the information needed to make a positive identification was just not available, and so it appears that an educated guess was used to identify a number of the veterans. For the most part, they got it right, however, there are a few markers that made it into the cemetery that are just plain wrong. This is one of them.

Captain Palmer was a man of mystery or was he just the victim of a number of historical mistakes? For many years, there were only a couple of things about Captain Palmer that were known for sure; he died on January 21, 1874 and was buried at Layman’s Cemetery in the North half of Lot 37, Block K. There were two items in the Minneapolis Tribune mentioning his death and requesting a “good attendance” at his funeral by the Masonic Lodges No. 4 and No. 19, however, no first name is mentioned, just “Capt.” When Health Officer Charles Simpson completed the permit to move his body to the cemetery, he entered the name “Capt. Palmer”, again, no first name. The first hint of who he might have been was in a Minneapolis Tribune article on Decoration Day (Memorial Day) in 1881, listing the veterans buried at the cemetery. He was listed as “J.M. Palmer”. Perhaps because of this, in 1942, it was determined that he must be Capt. Jesse W. Palmer who had served as a Private with the 9th Minnesota Infantry and then in 1864, was promoted to Captain of Company C, 65th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops. Good enough! A marker was ordered and placed on his grave, finally, Capt. Palmer was identified and recognized… if only they had gotten it right, which they didn’t.

Capt. Jesse W. Palmer was alive and well in 1874; in fact, he lived to the ripe old age of 76 years, passing away in 1914 at the Soldiers Home in Sawtelle, California. So who was the Capt. Palmer buried here? I’m pleased to say that with 99.9% certainty, we now know who he was.

Capt. Milo E. Palmer was born about 1818 in New York. He moved to Brown County, Wisconsin with his wife Azealia and daughter Maria between 1846 and 1850. The 1850 census lists his occupation as Blacksmith and that he also had a one-year-old son named Albert. The 1860 census contains a number of errors, such as his age, his middle initial and where he was born, but his occupation is now listed as Engineer and he has a new wife, Caroline. In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Milo lead a drive to recruit a company of 100 men from the Green Bay area. He succeeded and was elected Captain of Company H, 12th Wisconsin Infantry by the men he had recruited. The 12th Wisconsin was known as “The Marching Regiment” because it participated in campaigns which led them through every state in the south except Texas and Florida. The 12th’s mascot was a bear cub, which traveled with them to everyone’s amusement. It was on June 23, 1863, while at the Battle of Vicksburg, Milo sustained an injury to his left leg and hip, which caused “paralysis, severe, but not total”. Milo was under the care of a surgeon until August 9, 1863, when he resigned and was discharged on account of disability. He returned home to Wisconsin to convalesce and while there, he applied for a position in the Veteran Reserve Corp. He went before a board of examination in Washington and on February 14, 1864, was appointed to Company K, 23rd V.R.C. with the rank of Captain and was ordered to Fort Snelling. He had many duties at Fort Snelling, including Commanding Officer from July 1 to November 18, 1864. From January 8 to July 11, 1865 he commanded the Provost Guard in St. Paul and then was back at Fort Snelling to do garrison duty until December 8, 1865, when he was relieved of duty and ordered to his place of residence. Milo was mustered out of the service and received an honorable discharge on June 30, 1866.

In August of 1866, Milo wrote a letter to Edward Stanton, Secretary of War. The letter detailed his service, the injury he sustained during the war, his previous vocations (Practical Millwright and Engineer), and his concern over his ability to provide for his family. He requested to be reinstated to some position that could utilize his talents, perhaps at one of the frontier forts. Unfortunately, his request fell on deaf ears. Milo applied and was awarded a pension on April 25, 1867 and in 1870, he was living with his wife and son in Richfield, Minnesota. His occupation is listed as “Hotel Keeper”.

Buried in the same Lot as Milo are two of his son’s children; Gertrude, who died in 1878 at the age of 9 months from hydrocephaly and Fannie, who died in 1879 at the age of 3 years from the measles. Also buried in Lot 37 is John P. Naglee, Albert’s father-in-law, and a veteran of the Mexican-American War… but that’s another story.

Captain Milo E. Palmer died on January 21, 1874. The cause of death was heart disease. Which “Capt. Palmer” lay buried in Lot 37 was obscure at best for nearly 70 years, and then the cemetery caretakers mistook him for someone else. No one can blame them for the error, for it appears as though Milo most likely went simply by “Capt. Palmer” and that was how he was known and remembered. In the Minnesota Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1872 on page 338, under the heading “Restaurants”, what does it say? “Palmer, Capt., 223 3rd St.”

One last footnote: If you attempt to look up Capt. Milo E. Palmer’s service record in the Civil War Index, you will find not one, but four errors. According to the index, Milo also served with the: 3rd Illinois Cavalry, 3rd Minnesota Infantry, 2nd Minnesota Cavalry and Hatch’s Independent Battalion Minnesota Cavalry. Whoops!

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